Last year, I had the privilege to visit the golden city, Johannesburg. With all of the city’s grandeur, what impressed me most was the wisdom of one taxi driver, Prince, who took us back to Oliver Tambo Airport on our way back to Malawi.
This man had this Venture car which looked impressive compared to the other taxis we had found on the ran—more of the one-eyed man is king among the blind. We hired him to pick us up to the airport the following morning.
Apart from his sense of humour which kept us laughing our lungs out all the way, he had very good lessons on business management which I wished to share with colleagues ploughing small-scale trade here in Malawi.
The moment he knew we were from Malawi, the young man took it upon himself to show us every monumental place that lay along the way to the airport. Despite his English language challenges, he would confidently explain why certain areas were given particular names and the problems facing the ghettos. A whole lot of interesting stuff. This is an asset most of our local drivers lack—showing visitors historical places and telling them more about Malawi.
To begin with, some local taxi drivers seem like they are coming from funerals all the time. They hardly smile, can’t start a calculated conversation. You have little reason to travel with them again. While mindful that some customers love their peace (they don’t want to be talked to), as a taxi driver you will never know it until you try talking to them. But this is not the centre of my writing today.
Due to his story-telling nature, I took advantage to ask him on whether he owns the Venture car or not. ‘Yes and No,’ he quickly responded, making me very curious. “My mum bought this for me and so I really don’t consider it mine. I make sure I give all the money I collect from the venture to my mum to deposit in her account. We also agreed on a salary and made it a point that she will not raise the salary unless I hit a certain target.” I really got interested.
“Why do you have to do that?” I asked. “Well, I have seen lots of friends who own taxis and their businesses go bust within a short time. They drink the money off and womanise. When their vehicles break-down, it takes months before it is back on the road because they don’t put aside money for regular maintenance and repairs.” He explained with his face registering sincerity.
He continued, “Even when I have to take my wife to the shops, I make sure she either pays or I pay for her. I pay the exact fare that would have been charged if I got a commercial client.”
This was impressive. Often times, most small businesses, go bust because of what this young man pointed out. This is a young man who had not gone very far with his education and never even imagined being on a plane, saying it scares him stiff. But he has learnt the tricks of floating in business—discipline in expenditures.
For most Malawians, all money made from a business in a day is profit which has to be consumed with pomp as soon as possible. Profits are never used to further grow the business. Any little profit is spent on luxuries, beer, women and showbiz.
Those businesspersons who have ears and eyes let them heed what Prince, the South African taxi driver, is advising them free of charge.
Have a blessed weekend!